Laquan McDonald And The Slow Death Of Black Joy » VSB

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Laquan McDonald And The Slow Death Of Black Joy

CNN screenshot


This is how it happens. This is how it fucks you up.

It’s Tuesday. It’s a little after 7pm EST. On most Tuesdays, at this time, I’m either walking my dog or feeding my dog before walking him. After walking the dog, I usually go to the gym. And then, after the gym, I pick my wife up from her pottery class that ends at 9pm. I hadn’t planned on going to the gym today, though, because I played basketball for two hours yesterday, and I’m still sore. And I’ve learned — grudgingly — to listen to my body.

Instead, after walking my dog, I was going to sit on one of couches in the living room, watch college basketball, respond to some email I missed during the day, and read some of the newer additions to #ThanksgivingWithBlackFamilies. Which, all things considered, might have been my favorite Black Twitter-created hashtag yet. The tweets it generated were so hilarious, so accurate, so familiar, and so beautifully and unambiguously Black that it felt like home. Like I had a million-deep extended family, and we were all sitting at the same table and on the same couch, cracking and laughing at the same jokes while caught with the same itis.

But, I’m not doing any of that right now. Because I’m writing about Laquan McDonald. And I’m thinking about Laquan McDonald. And I’m thinking about watching the recently released video of Laquan McDonald’s execution. And I’m thinking about why I just don’t have the stomach to watch it tonight. Or tomorrow night. Or any night. And I’m thinking — convinced, actually — I’ll never watch it. And I’m thinking if this makes me a hypocrite because, several months ago, when another Black person (Sam DuBose) was murdered by another police officer, and that video was released, I wrote that we had an obligation to watch it. And I’m thinking about what could have possibly been going through the head of Jason Van Dyke (the police officer who executed Laquan McDonald) while he fired enough shots to hit him 16 times. And I’m thinking about what Laquan McDonald could have possibly been thinking about in the last moments of his life. Was it fear? Did it happen too quickly for the fear to even register? Did he know he was going to die? Or perhaps did he draw his last breath still believing that he’d walk away from this eventually. Was he confused? Was he angry? Was he sad? Or was the pain too sudden and too overbearing for him to feel or recognize or sense anything else?

And this is how shit like this tears your joy away. How it rips it apart. How it lights and burns it. This is it. This is the invisible psychic cost of existing in America while Black. This is the toll we all pay. This is how it ruins your evening. Your work day tomorrow. Your Thanksgiving dinner, when someone brings it up. Your week. Your year. This is how it chips away at you. Punches you. Kicks you. Wounds you.

This is how it happens. This is how it fucks you up.

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at Or don't. Whatever.

  • Another day, another execution. But we can’t have Blacks be our neighbors. They don’t share our culture. ;-)

    The thing about all the racial drama peaking on college campuses is ultimately reflective of the differences in how we raise kids. Personally I’m not sure college is the right venue for the problem, but we can’t pretend that all college kids come in equally situated. The same circumstances that allowed tons of Black boys and girls to get killed are the same that start the drama.

    Then again, even “liberal” Whites fight tooth and nail against Black kids in class. And you realize it’s all the same game. At least the survivors can enjoy Thanksgiving. And that is fun. :-) RIP Sean Bell, and I’m out.

    • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

      I double that…Rest in peace Sean Bell.

    • Amber

      I disagree on one thing. College campuses in my opinion are the best places for these struggles to bubble up. There is no other environment like it to deal with these types of issues. I’m just not sure if it’s best to have the national media outlets so targeted on these issues because it doesn’t allow for these kids to fully work out their campus issues.

    • Mulignan1488

      This is my negro neighbor.

      He raped and murdered my friend.

  • i tried to tell yall after that other post.

    we cannot. shall not. should not. can not watch these things. and add to the media’s thinking that we want/need to see this. we dont need to. the family doesn’t need to be re-victimized knowing that people are watching their son/brother die.

    our humanity is lost everytime it is shared. this is not a movie. shonda didn’t write this. ava didn’t direct this. it needs to stop.

    • DNA

      “,we cannot. shall not. should not. can not watch these things. and add to the media’s thinking that we want/need to see this.”

      This is not about the media’s desire for ratings. This is about the state of Chicago’s desire to sweep Laquan’s death, and the related video, under the rug so that we wouldn’t care. If this video wasn’t released, if people weren’t watching it and getting pissed off about it, we would not be discussing it on this website, and many of us would not be compelled to act. To make an effort to ignore this video because it is not “entertaining,” is how we lose sight of Laquan’s humanity, not ours.

      • Peaches

        Unfortunately, I watched the video before I could stop myself. My first instinct was to ignore the video, and not just because it’s not “entertaining”, but because every time I see a public execution of one of our own it chips away at my soul. I don’t need to see a barrage of bullets into a brown body to remind me that every day I (or my mother, sister, nephew, cousin, uncle) wake up, it could be the last because the color of our skin is a perceived threat before we even do anything. Choosing to not watch these videos is how I’m holding on to my sanity & humanity, because I have enough daily reminders of what people view me as (double whammy being Black and a woman) and how easily a “misunderstanding” could turn into a death sentence.

        By choosing to not (want) view the video, I have not lost sight of Laquan’s humanity. If anything, I’m continuing to preserve it by not watching him continuously get shot down like a dog in the street.

        • DNA

          Listen, I’m not saying you should bang yourself over the head by repeatedly watching the video; one time is enough. I know it sucks, and is unsettling, and is fucking up Thanksgiving preparations. But that is no justification to ignore this incident. I know a lot of black people will not want to watch another video because they feel they’ve seen enough already. But tragedy does not wait for you to recuperate emotionally, and this extremely graphic video is a strong reminder that while you try to ignore what is happening another black body is out here getting decimated and will not receive justice in part due to our growing apathy.

          Often graphic visuals are the quickest way to get everyday people, the media and government to act. We’re only hearing about this because some people saw this video, in addition to all of the other videos, and decided to blow the whistle because enough was enough. Considering the other comments in this thread I’m starting to believe that it is now commonplace to no longer want to know the complete, uncomfortable and gruesome details of what is happening around us. I believe this is a slippery slope that will eventually lead us to complete indifference, and I wouldn’t encourage it.

          • Peaches

            My not watching these videos does not constitute my ignorance to the state of affairs in this country nor me ignoring the incident. I live in the DEEP south, so trust me when I say I am not clueless to what’s going on and this is not an attempt to bury my head in the sand. This is not about me not trying to lose my appetite before the bird is cooked on Thursday. This is about me knowing my threshold for viewing Black peoples repeated executions live and in living color on tv & newsfeed a daily.

            In my own city alone we are dealing with the loss & coverups of Mattew Ajibade and Charles Smith by SCMPD. Just an hr south of here we are STILL trying to figure out what happened

          • Wild Cougar

            There is no growing apathy, no one is ignoring anything. If you think that is the case, you are not paying attention. We don’t have to see a gruesome death to care and be active.

          • TB, BS/MBA/JD

            Choosing not to watch the video and ignoring the incident are NOT the same. I’m not choosing not to watch because I’m tired of the media forcing me to watch these police sanctioned lynchings. When those Caucasian reporters were killed, NO outlet would show it. They recognized their humanity. I’m doing the same. I stopped watching this type of footage after Tamir Rice. I don’t need to see another unarmed Black person die to know the system is corrupt. I deal with it daily. For my sanity, I can’t.

      • Question

        Do we have to watch the video in order to recognize his humanity?

        • Amber

          Right. I hate this idea that these videos are needed to show america that we bleed and die for them to understand that oh they are human. I don’t need to see a video to know that this man should not have been killed.

      • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

        This is exactly what I came here to say. I don’t want to argue with those who choose to protect these psyche by not watching this. But don’t for a minute come at people who feel just as strongly that by not watching it, we allow ourselves to forget that we as a people are an have been in a perpetual state of crisis when it comes to the questions of our humanity and citizenship as Americans.

  • Juwan Dickerson

    I feel you. I had planned on going to the gym today but all I can think about is the constant barrage. Laquan McDonald, the shooting on unarmed Black Lives Matter protesters, Mercutio Hall being beat up by Trump Supporters in Birmingham, the city I live in that is known for protest and the Civil Rights movement. And the bending over backwards of people that try to justify that these things are acceptable. My head and my heart wasn’t in it to do anything other than get home safe and sit here alone in my room and drink.

  • DNA

    We have an obligation to watch this. We can either choose to ignore the problems that persist in favor of focusing our time on inane twitter quips or we can accept that the world is a harsh place, because the only way things have a chance of getting better is if we toughen up and take a stand.

    “A wise man, recognizing that the world is but an illusion, does not act as if it is real, so he escapes the suffering.” – Buddha

    • Wild Cougar

      Why don’t you get that not watching does not equal ignoring the problem? I’m not sure what the disconnect is. If it weren’t for twitter there would be no movement. Who do you think isn’t tough enough? Who isn’t taking a stand? What country have you been living in the past five years?

      • DNA

        I might have been a bit heavy handed in my wording, but the focus isn’t really on having to watch the video. What I’m alluding to is the idea of not wanting to fully engage in what is happening because it is difficult to bear. Yes there are a lot of us that are actively engaged and stay committed to being informed but that isn’t the case for everyone, and I’m just trying convince others that we need all hands on deck if we’re going to get anything resolved.

  • Lola

    transparency in the face of an occupying army is one of the few tools the oppressed have to hold them in check or at bay.
    we cannot pretend that we shouldn’t know PRECISELY what happened to be able to refute the spin. the lies. the mitigation. the deception.
    i know i breaks you. i know how it sucks your soul. i hold shame in my heart for leaving work as an advocate for survivors because i simply couldn’t. listen. to. one. more. survivors. scenario.
    i couldn’t.
    but not listening or seeing doesn’t stop them perpetrators. it doesn’t respect the murdered or the survivors. it just leaves room for dubiousness because you ‘didn’t even see it’.
    i hurt for his family. i hold them in my heart.
    and i hope they can have peace even with this footage being shown.
    but how can we NOT look? how can we not bear witness to this childs murder…when that is all we CAN offer him now??

  • cakes_and_pies

    Nope. Not watching another public execution of one of us. There have been too many. I value his life, but I can’t stomach it.

    • Cleojonz

      I refuse to watch it. My spirit won’t allow me to view another one of these senseless killings. I don’t need to see it to be outraged by it.

  • AngelMonique

    There is nothing to glean from the murders/execution of black bodies. I refuse to watch the video and any other one that may surface. I quit watching after Trayvon’s audio and pictures.

    I hear that his family didn’t want the tape released. They will never escape this now. They will never be able to just enjoy the good memories with dulled pain.They will never have a moment of even stolen peace because the entire world can watch their baby’s murder forever.

    This is not a movie. This is real life stolen. Brutally. This ain’t a Spike Lee Joint. We have no right to this. We have no right.

    • Janelle S

      How many videos have we seen before, and what has changed? More anger? More outrage? How much more outraged can we get? When will it amount to anything? If you haven’t been galvanized to act by now, another video won’t change it.

      • Wild Cougar

        Things are changing

        • Slowly but surely they are.

      • People are waking up and uniting – change is coming

  • I think the video has to be seen because the protests and anger pushes the story out.

    That being said, this is nothing more than the 60’s – 70’s repeating itself: the theme is the same, the plot’s different: same tricks, underhandedness and worst of all blatant corruption:

    • And the final piece de resistance is how the White liberals are running a new version of the same hustle. They make a point of caring about Black people publicly, but fight tooth and nail against their kindergarten kids going to school with Black and Latin folk. They have even developed their own racial code words. Whodathunkit that Lee Atwater would turn out to be the progressive one in terms of campaign tactics? LOL

  • TeeChantel

    My heart hurts. This especially coming off of a weekend where I got into an incident with a police officer. I have nothing to say tonight.

    • Echo

      I was cleaning my church alone tonight. I saw a cop sitting in the lot when I was done but I was afraid to walk out so I stayed inside until they left. No one should feel like that towards police of all people. I feel you. I’m glad you’re still here after your situation to speak on it.

      • Mochasister

        Many of us are afraid of the police. I hate it when I’m driving and I see a cruiser to the side of me or behind me. I just look straight ahead and avoid any type of eye contact. I realize I do the same when I’m walking and come upon a strange, unleashed dog.

        • Echo

          What is sad is that THEY are the LAST people we should be afraid of. I used to feel safer seeing them. Those days are gone.

          • Mochasister

            I agree.

  • miss t-lee

    You’re not obligated to watch it Champie. As with the others, I won’t be watching. I refuse to consume snuff films like it’s commonplace. I’m so very tired of this bullish*t. 16 shots. I don’t need to watch to see how that young man was executed, and how they almost got away with it.
    Prayers to his family, and to the protesters. Stay safe, Chicago.
    Rest in Peace, Laquan McDonald.

    • cakes_and_pies

      There have been so many deaths in the past few years, I can’t keep up. I want to remember them all, but there are too many.

      • miss t-lee

        Too, too many.

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